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Risk of contaminated water near military bases

Perifluorinated compounds are associated with various types of cancer and developmental delays in children, and are used in firefighting. These chemicals are concentrated in foam used to extinguish aircraft fires. In the past, this foam was allowed to run into drainage systems or remain on the soil and then seep into the groundwater. Presently, the military uses containment strategies to prevent these compounds from entering the water systems, as the foam continues to be used.

The Department of Defense report cited two Georgia military installations: Robins AFB, which had three of five samples testing above EPA levels for LHA's (EPA Lifetime Health Advisory levels for perifluorinated compounds) and Moody AFB, which had 22 of 34 samples test above the recommended EPA threshold. At all locations, communities surrounding the impacted bases were sampled as well, and out of 2,668 groundwater wells, 61% had elevated levels of periflourinated chemicals.

However, this problem is not isolated to military bases. Civilian airports and various industrial operations also use this foam, so the problem is likely to be widespread. These chemicals are known to cause adverse developmental effects to fetuses and children, pregnancy complications, kidney and testicular cancer, liver and thyroid disorders, asthma, decreased responsiveness to vaccines and autoimmune disorders.

The Department of Defense report cited remedial actions that have or will be taken by the military which include: discontinuing use of wells, providing new drinking water sources, activated carbon filtering and blending of water systems. Some of these changes will be made over the next decade.

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